Whale Watching Excursion, NZ

Home to the main population of sperm whales in New Zealand, a whale watching excursion headlined our short stay in Kaikoura.

We arrived a little too early to check in for our Whale Watch trip, so to pass the time we headed down to the beach, equipped with tripods, cameras and 10-stop ND filters to make a few images of the Kaikoura shoreline.

After a short safety-orientation, followed by a bus ride to south Kaikoura, we boarded one of the specially-designed, motorized catamarans and headed out to sea hoping to spot at least one sperm whale. Kaikoura is the only area in the world where sperm whales are routinely found so close to the coast, but don’t let that lull you into thinking it was a smooth ride. By the time the crew spotters pointed out the first sperm whale, we were 30 to 40 minutes from shore and riding a bit of swell.

The catamaran had an upper deck and a lower (enclosed) deck. As soon as the crew gave the go-ahead, we headed to the upper deck, along with 15-20 other passengers. It proved to be a good vantage point for photographing the 5 sperm whales we saw before the captain turned about and headed back to shore.

As soon as we swapped the short lens on K’s camera for a telephoto he succumbed to motion sickness, we suspect because of the disconnect between what he was seeing through his view finder and what his inner ears were experiencing in terms of motion. He headed into the main cabin where he rested and napped until we were back ashore; the rest of us took turns checking on him and taking more photographs.

On our way back to the dock in south Kaikoura, one of the crew members spotted a rare pair of Hector’s dolphins. K perked up enough to watch them through the cabin window while Dad went outside where he managed a pretty good photograph, especially when you factor in the constant motion of the dolphins and the rolling motion of the boat.


Once ashore, we had a short wait for the shuttle bus back to the Whale Watch parking lot. I hustled off to find a geocache while K found his land legs and Mr. GeoK and C took a couple of photos of the rocky shoreline.


Ignoring K’s bout of seasickness, this excursion exceeded our expectations – both in terms of numbers of whales and variety of marine life spotted.

We had planned one other activity in Kaikoura – an afternoon exploring the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway where we planned to take photographs, watch for fur seals and find some geocaches. But since K was feeling under the weather, we decided to spend the afternoon relaxing at our hotel. The upside is that gives us something new to look forward to next time we’re in Kaikoura!

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